MAKRAK, Afghanistan—Mullah Ibrahim, a stocky white-bearded cleric, was leading two men in prayer at dusk early this month when three assailants approached his mosque in a pomegranate grove in rural Zabul province.

One of them climbed over a low clay wall behind the two worshipers, who were absorbed in prayer, approached the cleric and shot him in the face, witnesses said. Once the mullah fell to the ground, another person shot him four times in the chest.

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